Arsenal’s recruitment in the Wenger era has yielded bittersweet feelings. There were some absolutely sensational and colossal figures that came to the club as a result of Arsene Wenger‘s vision. Signings like Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and many others defined the “Arsenal” way of playing the game.
In any club’s recruitment history, there is a hall of fame, decorated with personalities that represent the true values of a club, the standards of the club. However, there is a wall of shame that represents horrendous signings that for the time to come will remind fans and the club how criminally wrong their judgment was.
Some Arsenal signings were utterly disappointing
Arsenal as a club are no different. There have been some utterly wasteful signings in the club’s history that, given a chance, they would absolutely love to erase from their memories. It was equally scarring for the fans of the club and these players themselves who were never quite up to the standards of Arsenal. In hindsight, they should have always stayed away from the club. So, on that note, here are five players who did not deserve to play for Arsenal:
#1. Igors Stepanovs
When the gaffer makes a signing in the middle of the crisis, it is supposed to mitigate the damage, not add up to the problems. This is an unfortunate summary of what Igors Stepanovs’ career at Arsenal was like.
The Latvian was a tall figure and at first glance his stature wouldn’t label him as an average footballer. But the cheap sum of £1.35m that Arsenal paid for him turned out to be a sheer waste. In fact, the story behind his signing would make a great script for a comedy drama.
Arsenal were trying to fix their defensive issues after finishing second in the Premier League edition of 1999-00. That is when, on a pre-season tour, Stepanovs arrived at their camp for a trial. Martin Keown, a centre-half himself, was always insecure when people came to audition for his place.
Taking advantage of this fact, both Dennis Bergkampand Ray Parlour played on his insecurities. They realized the Latvian was way below Arsenal’s standards and there was no way they’d recruit him. So they started appreciating his every pass, every clearance to rile up Keown.
Unfortunately, Wenger overheard all of this but did not realize it was a ploy. Next thing you know, a week later, Stepanovs is in training with the Arsenal team because the Frenchman thought his players loved the centre-half’s audition.
He made a total of 17 appearances for Arsenal in the course of his four-year stay. Stepanovs is infamously remembered for his terrible performance in a 6-1 thrashing of Arsenal at the hands of Manchester United in 2001. A very costly prank indeed.
#2. Shkodran Mustafi
This is the hard truth, but it is the truth nonetheless. For a club like Arsenal with ambitions to compete at the highest level, Shkodran Mustafi should never truly have been seen as a progressive step towards fixing an ailing backline.
His six-year spell has finally come to an end for the good of all Arsenal fans and there’s one question that one fathoms: “Why not sooner?”. The £35 million that Arsenal paid for him, Mustafi made it look like an absolute joke at every opportunity he got. With each passing season, his stock deteriorated.
The German was never tough or rugged enough to rub shoulders with the striker moving towards his goal. His aerial prowess was decent but his poor judgment made things complicated for him during duels in the air.
Concentration was always Mustafi’s biggest nemesis. His marker would run barefoot in front of him and the Arsenal defender on his bicycle wouldn’t be able to catch him. It would have already become too late by the time he paid attention to it.
Mustafi joined Schalke in February in a loan spell where he was abysmal in an already struggling backline. Moreover, he was left out of the squad for disciplinary reasons towards the business end of Bundesliga. The German was involved in his nation’s World Cup triumph in 2014 and that will remain the highlight of his career. He now plays for Levante in La Liga.
#3. Park Chu-Young
Arsenal were often adventurous and had a reputation for taking risks by investing in one-season wonders around Europe. It was a gamble Wenger believed was worth taking, but a look back at Arsenal’s history and there are more signs of regret than success.
Park Chu-Young arrived at Arsenal from Monaco as a one-season wonder and royally flopped in his spell with the Gunners. The South Korean was a deadline day signing, in a pool that consisted of Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta, Andre Santos and Yossi Benayoun. Clearly, Wenger was batting in a free-hit situation of sorts and some of these were clear mishits, including Park.
The then Monaco player was preparing for a medical that would have taken him to Lille, a club he had agreed to move to. Arsenal got involved in the middle and Park left the second half of his medical and negotiated with the Gunners.
For a striker who Wenger believed would add quality to his attacking line, he made only seven appearances in his three years at Arsenal before leaving in 2014. Park never felt comfortable in England, he was a misfit in Arsenal’s fluid style of play and always lacked confidence.
#4. Andre Santos
The modern fullback in football these days is praised for his attacking runs and contributions in the final third. The relentless tendency to hurl crosses in the middle, to be that extra threat for the backline to deal with, is an evolution for the fullbacks. But if all that comes at the cost of being a careless defender, it’s really not worth it.
Maybe Wenger forgot to remind Arsenal’s scouting team of that last bit. Andre Santos, brought in on deadline day in 2011, had shown these appreciable qualities. However, he was brought in at Arsenal to improve their backline and he would do anything except defend.
The left-back was so caught up moving forward that he would forget he had to track back to protect the backline. His tendency to give the ball away never truly allowed Arsenal to build play from wider areas.
In his two-year spell, he only made 13 appearances for the Gunners. His anticipation of the game was slower than his team-mates and was only increasing his room for mistakes. Truly one of the most disappointing Arsenal signings.
#5. Francis Jeffers
There is no better way to explain how big a blunder this was than to reveal that Francis Jeffers was signed for some godforsaken reason above Ruud van Nistlerooy. He arrived from Everton for a price tag of £8 million.
That amount at the start of the century meant some hope and expectation, which eventually evaporated as Jeffers progressed through his Arsenal career. He was so useless that Wenger did not even keep him as a backup for Arsenal’s 2003-04 Invincible season and loaned him bag to the Toffees.
In his Arsenal career, the Englishman popularly nicknamed “fox in the box” scored only eight goals. Here was a striker in Jeffers, who had the experience of the Premier League, was used to the intensity of the football in England and still miserably failed in north London.
He never really established himself in Arsenal’s peak years of glory and whatever little promise he had shown at Everton was thrown out the window. Jeffers’ career stagnated and then ultimately got ruined after his poor showing for Arsenal. It makes no sense to think that the striker was brought in to compete with the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and others.